Pigs are incredibly intelligent and emotional beings. Studies have shown that pigs possess the ability to empathize with one another, they can perform tricks just like a dog, and they even come running when they hear their name. And now we can add yet another talent to the ever growing list of a pig’s attributes: literary ambassadors.
Yep, you read that right. Daisy is a Potbellied pig who spends much of her time traveling from library to library across the United States to teach children that reading is fun.
Back in 1995 in Bristol, Connecticut, Paul, and Victoria Minor had just said goodbye as their youngest child left home. One day Victoria drove by a sign that advertised piglets for sale. Always wanting a Potbellied pig and feeling a bit lonely, she picked the runt of the litter, named her Daisy and went home with a surprise to Paul.
It was a match made in heaven for both Daisy and the Minors. Daisy started participating in the Boys and Girls Club “Kiss-A-Pig” fundraiser, where people pay money to get community notables to kiss a pig. Daisy was a perfect fit for the fundraiser given her patience and love of people. Then, the Hartford Library children’s librarian asked the Minors if they’d consider bringing Daisy in for story hour.
Naturally, kids loved Daisy and Daisy loved them. After just a couple years, Daisy had so many gigs that Paul Minor gave up his day job and took Daisy on the road full time. Daisy died of old age in 2009, but now Daisy 2 has taken over and continues to help teach children that reading is fun.
Along with Daisy 2, Minor is on the road about nine months out of the year and occasionally tours with his wife, Victoria and their two pigs, Lily Pug and Dixie Cup.
“My mission is to encourage children to develop a love of reading,” Minor told Atlas Obscura.
Minor begins the event by showing newspaper clippings about Daisy’s exploits, or by playing audio recordings of her eating her food to help relax the children. Then Minor reads a pig-themed classic!
And of course, everyone gets a chance to say hello to Daisy!
The star of the show, Daisy, travels with her Dad in a van with the slogan “Pig Out on Reading” on the side. Every night, she sleeps with Minor in bed.
“It’s all about getting them to read something that’s interesting to them,” Minor says. After seeing Daisy, the kids are inspired to continue reading.
“A lot of times, we’re tied to a reading incentive program where the principal promises to kiss the pig if they read a certain amount of books,” Minor notes and of course, the kids want to see their principal kiss a pig!
Minor also brings his program to assisted living facilities, convalescent homes, and juvenile detention centers. A wonderful endeavor!
We love this unique way the Minors are motivating kids to read! And it really comes as no surprise that kids are inspired by Daisy, given that kids who find reading a challenge have higher success when reading to their pet. Researchers posit that this can be the result of lowered stress when in the presence of an animal. This likely isn’t a surprise to most, especially considering the healing nature of companion animals. That, along with their nonjudgmental nature, is exactly why they’re used as part of therapy and emotional support programs.
Not only is seeing Daisy and her crew interacting with kids all over the country adorable, it’s also setting the foundation for the children’s future relationship with animals. Studies have shown, for instance, that children who grow up with pets are more empathetic and have lower levels of anxiety.
Volunteering with animals is a great way to get children involved in community activities. And reading programs provide a fun, yet educational way for both children and adults to help animals. To get involved in your community, check with your local shelter to see if they offer a reading program. If they don’t, ask them if they would consider starting one.
Lead image source: Minor’s Farm/Facebook